Many of our nation’s largest police departments, if not already doing so, are at least considering the benefits of body cameras. In fact, a survey of federal, state and local law enforcement professionals found that 80 percent of agencies are currently evaluating one or more body-worn solutions.[1]

However, some communities are taking it a step further by expanding the use of this technology to other public agencies that face high-conflict situations—parking enforcement, code enforcement, building inspection and fire inspection.[2] Although police-worn body cameras are strongly backed by the public, with 88 percent supporting their use, the expansion to other agencies and departments is receiving some opposition.[3] Below are some body camera pros and cons to help you decide whether they are right for your public agency, its employees and community.

Body camera pros and cons:

  • Promote integrity: Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales says body cameras “… promote integrity on both ends of the transaction.” Not only can they keep both parties on their best behavior, they can help refute false claims and uncover unethical behavior.[4] One example includes city employees threatened with vengeful assertions of wrongdoing from an angry customer cited with a code violation. On the flipside, cameras may uncover the acceptance of a kickback or extorting money in exchange for a promise to look the other way.[5]
  • Increase safety: Public employees who confront high-conflict situations may achieve greater safety and security if all interactions are recorded. Body cameras can deter assault. Several large jurisdictions in the U.K. are using body cameras as a proactive means to prevent attacks on parking enforcement officials.[6] Discourage unwanted behavior by making the public aware they are being recorded. Chrome stickers and hanging parking permits are great places to display your message.
  • Cost: Of course, budget is a valid concern for most agencies. Popular body cameras are estimated to cost an average of $400 each.[7] Add to that the resources needed to download, view, process and store recorded data, and you could be facing substantial costs.[8]
  • Privacy: People have voiced their concerns over lack of privacy when public employees are armed with body cameras. Citizens may feel it is a violation to film their family, their home and its contents.[9] And, employees may feel they’re being intruded on if every move they make is recorded. Remind all stakeholders that the goal is to improve both safety and interaction between public employees and private citizens.[10] You may even want to hold a Q&A session for citizens and employees alike in your next council meeting. Credit card ice scrapers, key lights and fire safety hang tags that promote your message to participants make nice giveaways.

Without a doubt, there is no one right answer to the debate on body cameras. However, if your agency is exploring the use of this technology, we hope the above body camera pros and cons have helped in your quest to find a resolution.

 

[1] Wyllie, Doug. “Survey: Police Officers Want Body-worn Cameras.”PoliceOne. N.p., 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 06 Aug. 2015. <http://www.policeone.com/police-products/body-cameras/articles/6017774-Survey-Police-officers-want-body-worn-cameras/>.

[2] Maciag, Mike. “Police Aren’t the Only Public Workers Wearing Body Cameras.” Governing.com. N.p., 10 June 2015. Web. 06 Aug. 2015. <http://www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-body-cameras-employees-expansion.html>.

[3] Ibid

[4] “More than Accountability: 5 Unique Uses for Body Cameras.” PoliceOne. N.p., 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 Aug. 2015. <http://www.policeone.com/police-products/body-cameras/articles/8349555-More-than-accountability-5-unique-uses-for-body-cameras/>.

[5] Maciag, Mike. “Police Aren’t the Only Public Workers Wearing Body Cameras.” Governing.com. N.p., 10 June 2015. Web. 06 Aug. 2015. <http://www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-body-cameras-employees-expansion.html>.
[6] Ibid

[7] Wyllie, Doug. “New TASER AXON Body On-officer Camera Hits the Streets.” PoliceOne. N.p., 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 06 Aug. 2015. <http://www.policeone.com/police-products/body-cameras/articles/6354361-New-TASER-AXON-Body-on-officer-camera-hits-the-streets/>.

[8] Maciag, Mike. “Police Aren’t the Only Public Workers Wearing Body Cameras.” Governing.com. N.p., 10 June 2015. Web. 06 Aug. 2015. <http://www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-body-cameras-employees-expansion.html>.
[9] Patrick, William. “Surveillance City: Public Workers, Police to Wear Body Cameras in Miami Beach – Watchdog.org.” Watchdogorg RSS. N.p., 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 06 Aug. 2015. <http://watchdog.org/171430/surveillance-police-body-cameras/>.

[10] Ibid

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